Oct. 24 (UPI) — Forty-two attorneys general announced Tuesday that are suing Meta, the parent of Facebook, for features they charge are addictive and targeted at children and teenagers, while nine others are filing separate claims.
The filing presents a rare near unified front by state law enforcers against the social media giant that owns Instagram, as well as Facebook. They allege that the products Meta has designed to keep a hold of young people’s interests have a negative effect on their mental health.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said that Meta’s practices continue to harm the physical and mental health of children and teens and have fueled what the U.S. Surgeon General has deemed a “youth mental health crisis,” which has ended lives and devastated families.
“Meta saw American kids as a ‘valuable and untapped market’ — nameless factors on a bottom line to maximize profits,” Tong said in a statement. “They enabled kids to access addictive platforms riddled with harmful messages built to override self-control that one developer likened to ‘behavioral cocaine.’ Their abusive practices have unleashed a youth mental health catastrophe.
“Businesses have a duty to minimize the harm their product may cause, and to disclose when their product may have harmful effects, particularly on children.”
The attorneys general said they are seeking injunctive and monetary relief to address Meta’s misconduct under federal and various state laws, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
“Our bipartisan investigation has arrived at a solemn conclusion: Meta has been harming our children and teens, cultivating addiction to boost corporate profits,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said. “With today’s lawsuit, we are drawing the line. We must protect our children and we will not back down from this fight.”
The complaint is just one of the numerous legal challenges faced by Meta. In May, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission on Monday fined Meta $1.3 billion for privacy violations and ordered them to stop transferring user data across the Atlantic by October.
The penalty was imposed following a three-year investigation into how Meta Ireland sends personal data from the European Union to the United States in the delivery of its Facebook service, according to a news release from the DPC, which has regulatory jurisdiction because Meta’s European operation is headquartered in Dublin.